OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Broncos had a short week of practice leading up to the Thursday night game -- but in the time they had, improvement in the running game was a major point of emphasis.
Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy said it. Quarterback Peyton Manning said it. The goal for the offense at O.co Coliseum was to establish a strong rushing attack.
The practice paid off. Running back Knowshon Moreno ran the ball 32 times – a career high – for 119 yards – a game high – in the Broncos 26-13 win against the Raiders.
"I thought the running game was solid," Manning said. "Coming off last week where it wasn't quite as efficient, I know (Head) Coach (John) Fox challenged the offensive line, we challenged the running game and talked about how we're going to need that down the stretch. That was really good."
The most impressive part of Moreno's outing was the way he finished. After three quarters, he already had 20 carries under his belt for a hard-earned 60 yards. In the fourth, he toted it 12 more times for 59 yards, nearly doubling his rushing total to help Denver drain the clock and eventually end the game from the victory formation.
"Any time you can run the ball and make them use timeouts and continue to run the clock and end the game with a kneedown – that is something we can build on," Manning said. "That is something we haven't been as good at the past couple of weeks, including last week. So, to do that tonight, I think we can build off that."
The final drive was the backbreaker. The Raiders had just scored a touchdown and cut the lead to 13 points with less than six minutes remaining. If Oakland could get a stop, it could continue to swing momentum in its favor and bring the game within one possession. But Moreno and the offensive line wouldn't let it happen.
The fourth-year back carried it on the first four plays of the drive and seven of the first eight, until Manning kneeled out the final three snaps. He gained three first downs on the possession as the offense marched down to the 8-yard line.
Manning said he was "really proud of that last drive," and Fox was pleased with not only his running back, but also the offensive line that provided the push.
"I think it was good for our offensive line -- the blocking elements as well as the running backs to be able to do that to close out a game," Fox said. "You do what it takes to win. This is a timed game and we were trying to run some time off the clock."
Moreno was also quick to credit the O-line.
"I was just following the offensive linemen," Moreno said. "They were opening up some big holes out there and I was just running through them. Definitely a great a team effort today."
The running game was stressed throughout Denver's short week of practice. The team knew it had to be effective on the ground if it was going to win in Oakland.
It will continue to be emphasized throughout December and hopefully into January, when teams rarely win without a balanced attack.
"I think that will help us moving forward," Fox said. "You develop a little bit of a mindset."